Sen. John McCain was a decorated war veteran and six-term Arizona Republican senator who made a run at the presidency twice.
His mother still called him “Johnny.”
“I should call him John,” Roberta McCain said in an interview with C-SPAN during her son’s 2008 presidential campaign.
She never did.
We look at our sons, men by chronological age, and we see them. We are proud of who they have become, marvel at it really. But we also still see the adorable baby, and the sweet boy, and the scamp of a teenager.
No matter how old our kids get, they are that. Our kids.
Roberta McCain is 106, living in Washington, D.C., where she has said she likes that the museums are open every day and admission is free.
People magazine reported that McCain’s mother knew her son had stopped treatment for a brain cancer in the days before his death. She would have known what was coming.
But then, Roberta McCain had been told her boy was dead one time before.
In 1967, she answered a phone in a London hotel room to learn her son’s A-4 Skyhawk had been shot down over North Vietnam. There was no indication that the pilot had ejected safely.
Roberta McCain had been sure Johnny was dead, she said in a 2008 interview with C-SPAN. “Reality is reality,” she said. Her boy was gone.
Then came the good news that Johnny was a prisoner of war. Yes, she said in that interview, the good news.
Because it was not the worst she could imagine. Her boy was alive.
Her faith sustained her through the next 5½ years until her son came back, thin and limping but unbelievably alive. Her boy was home.
Even though he was grown, she was still mom.
In that same interview, Roberta McCain recalled how she had read an article about his brutal treatment in captivity, years later. It described how he had shouted expletives at his captors.
She telephoned her son. "Johnny," she said. "I'm going to come over there and wash your mouth out with soap.” Her boy was 60.
John McCain often said his mom was the greatest influence on his life.
Strong-willed and a seasoned traveler, when she was told she was too old to rent a car in Paris in 2006, she bought one instead. She made the most of any situation.
Clearly, he learned from her example.
He survived captivity, torture, embarrassing scandal and losing a presidential bid, twice.
Then he was diagnosed with brain cancer. Instead of lament, he wrote in his final book: "What an ingrate I would be to curse the fate that concludes the blessed life I've led."
A blessed life, even in dying.
As Roberta McCain remarked in her 2008 interview: “It depends on where you are standing, how things affect you."
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